Russia's top general warned on Thursday that any deal to buy French-made helicopter carriers would depend on weapons systems and other technology being included, terms that France has already baulked at.
The comments by General Nikolai Makarov may dampen the likelihood of France and Russia agreeing the sale of one or more of the 400-500 million euro (about $530-670 million) Mistral amphibious carriers, a deal that has alarmed Washington and East European NATO members.
"We will purchase this ship only in a fully equipped form - with all controls, navigation and weapons. The only exception - helicopters," Makarov, armed forces chief of staff told the weekly Rossiiskaya Gazeta Nedelya.
"The leadership of the country and the Defence Ministry are in an absolutely clear position on this issue," he said in an interview published on Thursday.
Russia has previously said that if it had the Mistral during its 2008 war with Georgia, it would have achieved its military goal in 40 minutes instead of 26 hours.
After meeting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Paris on March 1, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy linked Moscow's cooperation on global security issues like Iran to the possible sale to Russia of the Mistral-class amphibious carriers.
Sarkozy, who brokered a ceasefire deal that ended the war with Georgia confirmed then that France had entered talks with Russia for the sale of four carriers.
But Sarkozy also said France would only manufacture Mistral carriers for Russia "without military equipment", according to a transcript of the press conference on his elysee.fr website.
Two of the carriers would probably be built in France and the other two in Russia, Sarkozy said. Each carrier can carry troops, tanks and armoured vehicles as well as helicopters, although Russia has not sought to buy French helicopters.
Military experts have said much depends on the technology that comes with the ship -- an element France has tried to play down to reassure worried eastern Europeans.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 26 Mart 2010, 01:11